Like clockwork, another year has come and gone. The events of these past 12 months were anything but predictable, but we tried anyway — and we did OK!

It’s time for IndieWire’s business team to dust off our crystal balls, put on our writing glasses, and go for broke in 2024. Below are our nine industry predictions for the new year, in varying degrees of boldness. Feel free to tell us where we’re wrong!

Bundle Up!

We’ll see unprecedented streaming consolidation in 2024 — the kind that does not require regulatory approval. Next year will instead be the year of the streaming bundle.

This is, admittedly, a bit of a layup of a prediction considering Verizon already planted its flag earlier this month with a $10 Netflix and Max bundle. Apple TV+ and Paramount+ reportedly flirted with a similar idea, though they ultimately didn’t consummate.

What comes next? More pairs of twos and threes, Magid analytics executive VP Tony Cardinale told IndieWire. And at the end of 2024 (or mid-2025), a more robust — and significantly discounted — bundle priced around $40 per month. The theoretical package will likely be centered around two or more “motherships” — Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Disney+, and Max, Cardinale said, along with some smaller niche services thrown in for good measure.

Why combine? Beyond having a steady stream of killer content, bundling is the best-known means of reducing churn. It’s why Paramount rushed to combine Paramount+ and Showtime streaming services, and why Disney loves its Duo and Trio Bundles.

Paramount Minus a Buyer

On Wednesday, news broke that Warner Bros. Discovery chief David Zaslav spent hours with Paramount Global CEO Bob Bakish discussing a potential acquisition. Zaslav has also spoken with Shari Redstone, whose family controls 77 percent of Paramount’s voting shares through their private company National Amusements, Inc. Anyone who wants to buy — or even just control — Paramount must go through her.

A week earlier, it was revealed that David Ellison of Skydance also held talks with Shari — most likely for NAI, not Paramount. (Even the son of billionaire Oracle founder Larry Ellison has his financial limits.) The buzzards are circling. But we’ve got no one buying Paramount Global in 2024 — why? For starters, tire-kicking like these talks leak to test the market’s reaction. The response: investors like one David’s idea: Ellison’s, not Zaslav’s.

WBD is still recovering from its 2022 merger, which created the current company. Warner Bros. Discovery still a ton of debt to be paid down, and taking on Paramount’s problems isn’t the cleanest way to do it. There would be synergies and redundancies with such a deal, and streamers Max and Paramount+ could be looked at either way. (But really, does WBD need more cable channels? God no.)

Comcast/Paramount has always made the most sense. Comcast has the money, and NBCUniversal’s streaming service Peacock could actually use Paramount+. Plus, unlike Warner Bros. Discovery, Comcast isn’t in M&A jail for the first quarter of 2024. Even the best options have problems: NBC and Paramount’s CBS cannot exist under the same roof, per the FCC’s two-network rule. None of this feels like a great 2024 bet.

IATSE Won’t Walk the (Picket) Line

IATSE and the studios are getting ahead of the game to avoid a repeat of 2023. Their current deal doesn’t expire until the end of July, but negotiations are expected to start in March. There’s a real possibility we’ve got another summer strike, but IndieWire is here to tell you it won’t happen.

First, the case for a strike: SAG-AFTRA and the WGA proved this year that strikes work, and IATSE has its own specific demands. (Not that the AI issue is and done and buried here.) In 2021, IATSE came dangerously close to striking. The case against: IATSE members were out of work for so long in 2023, can they really do it again in 2024? The studios can’t afford another shut down either. CAA’s Bryan Lourd recently nudged both sides to get started already.

IATSE (and the Teamsters) honored the WGA and SAG-AFTRA picket lines this year — time to return the favor. Sooner than later would be best, if for no other reason than our predictions stats.

Only Murders in the Building Season 3 Episode 10 "Opening Night" Spoilers Charles (Steve Martin) and Loretta (Meryl Streep) shown
Steve Martin and Meryl Streep in Hulu’s “Only Murders in the Building”Courtesy of Patrick Harbron / Hulu

Hulu Dolo

Disney already paid Comcast $8.61 billion for its Hulu stake. Consider that the down payment: Comcast chief Brian L. Roberts is seeking to (at least) double that as we speak. Good luck to him.

Five years ago, when Disney took control of Hulu through its massive Fox deal, all parties agreed on a $27.5 billion minimum valuation for Hulu. Roberts now says that number “was just a hypothetical,” and the general-entertainment streamer “is way more valuable today than it was then.”

Roberts theorized Hulu may be worth as much as tens of billions of dollars more. Slow down, Brian. The equity analysts Wells Fargo see Hulu worth between $30 billion and $37 billion, which would leave Disney on the hook for another $833 million to $3.2 billion to complete the long-awaited buyout.

But Wells Fargo is not the bank that will ultimately decide the size of the second check Disney chief Bob Iger sends to Roberts. Our guess? The final payment will be much closer to hundreds of millions than tens of billions.

It’s All Fun and (Squid) Games Until…

While not official, we expect “Squid Game 2” will come out in late 2024. Not bold enough? OK, here goes: “Squid Game 2” will be even bigger than the first season. (Caveat: all of that viewing may not come in 2024.)

The South Korean (and dubbed for local languages) “Squid Game” Season 1 drew more than 2.2 billion hours viewed (or 265.2 million views) over its first 91 days of availability. Both are Netflix records. “Wednesday” is the closest in views, Netflix’s new key metric, with 252.1 million; “Stranger Things 4” is runner-up in hours viewed with 1.8 billion.

The “Squid Game” franchise is alive and well. Its reality-competition spinoff, “Squid Game: The Challenge,” topped Netflix’s global charts in its first two weeks. “The Challenge” was so big, it brought the original “Squid Game” (September 2021) back to the streamer’s weekly Non-English TV chart.

The anticipation for “Squid Game” Season 2 will easily outpace Season 1. At first, “Squid Game” was an unknown in the U.S., and by the time it took off like a rocket, precious days (of 91) were lost. “Squid Game 2” will not creep up on anybody, nor will it need to creep up the charts.

The New Netflix Effect: Transparency

Netflix surprised the industry earlier this month by releasing viewership numbers for virtually every title watched on its platform between January to June. It was a massive data dump — impressive, but also confusing. Both are likely on purpose.

The sudden transparency, which was another gripe of the guilds, has put every other streamer on notice. It likely also makes them very, very nervous. Peacock, Paramount+, Max, Hulu, and even Disney+ are not Netflix. Each of them are now in a position to release more viewing statistics, but those numbers will pale in comparison to Netflix. It’s a no-win, but a necessary evil. Our prediction: everyone will (again) follow Netflix into the pool.

In some ways, it has already started. In September, Max mimicked Netflix with its own Top 10 list. And third-party TV ratings company Nielsen has been measuring — and publicly sharing — more and more streaming data. Following the writers strike, the WGA is requiring streamers to share some of their internal numbers with certain creators. It’s only a matter of time before this stuff reaches the public — might as well hold your nose and jump in.

This “Coyote” Ugliness Will End

“Coyote vs. Acme” is just the current round of Warner Bros. vs. creators; it likely won’t be the last. WBD, in damage-control mode, has agreed to shop its latest scrapped, completed film. While no one has bit — yet — a new year always calls for renewed optimism. Plus, it wouldn’t be at all “bold” to say something that hasn’t sold won’t sell.

We know through media reports that Amazon and Paramount have at least kicked the tires on this thing. Plus, there are some gaping holes in the 2024 theatrical slate — especially for family content — that could use filling. But don’t take our word for it, take as evidence Disney slating a trio of years-old Pixar movies into theaters for early 2024.

What about Netflix? It’s already licensed plenty of Warner Bros. Discovery content. Apple has a checkbook full of blank checks, and Looney Tunes wouldn’t look out of place next to its exclusive Peanuts content. And seriously, how bad could it be? “Coyote vs. Acme” stars John Cena and Will Forte, and was written by Samy Burch (who may very well win an Oscar for “May December”) and James Gunn. Sell, sell, sell.

The Netflix Cup
The Netflix CupCourtesy of Netflix

Only One (New) Streamer Will Become Profitable

At the time of this writing, here is the complete list of profitable major streamers: Netflix (reported), Hulu (long-presumed), and sometimes Max. That list will grow by exactly one in 2024.

It won’t be Peacock. NBCUniversal executives have said 2023 will be the streamer’s peak-investment year — but not that it will bring profitability. We agree with the quiet part: 30 million subscribers just isn’t enough to turn losses into gains. What about 63 million? That was the Paramount+ total at the end of September. Paramount execs have publicly stated an expectation of returning to “total company earnings growth” in 2024, but have not disclosed a timeline on anticipated direct-to-consumer profits. If it were close, a company beefing up to be bought would mention that.

Apple would never so much as hint about Apple TV+ gains or losses — the same goes for Amazon and its Prime Video service. Those two services as currently structured should perpetually be considered loss leaders. Tech just thinks different.

You guessed it: Disney+ will be the newly profitable streamer in 2024. This won’t go down as the boldest of our predictions, as Iger has stated the final quarter of fiscal 2024 (for Disney, that’s July-September 2024) will see the long-awaited swing.

Netflix Ball

Through docuseries like “Formula One: Drive to Survive,” “Break Point,” “Full Swing,” and “Quarterback,” Netflix already has relationships with athletes and leagues; 2024 will be the year it gets serious about live sports.

Live golf event “The Netflix Cup” was weird, sure, but it was another toe dipped in the waters; a live tennis match, “The Netflix Slam,” is already on the books for March. After the “Love Is Blind” reunion disaster, Netflix is being smart about live programming.

Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos has stated that he is not “anti-sports,” just “pro-profit.” He’s closely watching what Apple is doing with Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer, and what Amazon Prime Video has with the NFL “Thursday Night Football” package. Hell, Peacock even has an exclusive NFL Playoffs game this year.

So what’s left? NBA rights are coming up, but that’s probably too much, too soon for Netflix. Perhaps the success with its F1-racing docuseries brings IndyCar (they’re different) to Netflix. Maybe Netflix steps into the cage with the UFC. Keep your dukes up, Ted.

Leave a comment